Categories
Interesting music

The Backwards Score of Benjamin Button

After watching David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for the first time, there was something about Alexandre Desplat’s score that stayed with me.

I wasn’t sure exactly what this was until reading that the score contains musical¬†palindromes: many of the themes can be played backwards, which mirrors the central story of a man ageing in reverse.

The composer explains more in this interview with NPR:

> The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the IMDb
> Find out more about Alexandre Desplat at Wikipedia
> Buy Alexandre Desplat’s score from Amazon UK
> Photos of the scoring session from August 2008

Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD Releases: Monday 8th June 2009

UK DVD Picks 08-06-09

DVD PICKS

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Warner):¬†A high profile big budget adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s short story, which stars¬†Brad Pitt as the title character, a man who is born as an old man and ages backwards throughout his life. Directed¬†by¬†David Fincher, from a script written by¬†Eric Roth and¬†Robin Swicord, it also stars¬†Cate Blanchett,¬†Taraji P. Henson,¬†Julia Ormond,¬†Tilda Swinton and¬†Jason Flemyng. Told in flashback, it is an epic tale of one man‚Äôs life during the 20th century, from in 1918 to 2005.

On first viewing I admired it more as a technical exercise and was puzzled as to why a director like Fincher was attracted to this material. Why did they alter the original story so much? What were the contemporary references all about? And wasn’t it a bit too similar to Forrest Gump? (also scripted by Roth). However, on second viewing I found it to be a much richer experience Рit is essentially a fable about love and loss and gains its power from the central concept of living life in reverse.

Far from being a gimmick, it actually becomes a profound way of dramatising the ageing process. Forget the Oscar fuelled hype and snarkycritical hate surrounding this film and approach it with an open mind. The makeup, visual effects, cinematography, score and performances make it an unusual and affecting big budget rarity.

Disappointingly Warner Bros (the UK distributor) have put all the extras on the Blu-ray version and the regular DVD is a barebones single disc with only audio commentaries.

If you have a multi-region player I would strongly recommend getting the US Criterion edition on import, although I imagine there will be a 2 disc DVD at some point in the future.

The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray versions break down like this.

Single-Disc DVD – Includes the film presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with English and Italian DD5.1 Surround and English Audio Description; The only extra is commentary by director David Fincher.

2-Disc Blu-ray – Extras include:

  • Commentary by director David Fincher
  • The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button
    • Pre-Production (RT 32:20; New Featurette)
    • Production Part I (RT 24:14; New Featurette)
    • Production Part II (RT 31:36; New Featurette)
    • VFX- Benjamin (RT 16:52; New Featurette)
    • VFX- The Chelsea (RT 8:50; New Featurette)
    • VFX- Youthenizationo (RT 6:21; New Featurette)
    • VFX- Performance Capture (RT 7:57; New Featurette)
    • VFX- The Simulated World (RT 12:50; New Featurette)
    • Sound Design (RT 16:29; New Featurette)
    • Desplats Interumentarium (RT 14:52; New Featurette; Interviews by Alexandre Desplat and the scoring of Benjamin Button)
    • Costume Design (RT 7:33; New Featurette)
    • Tech Scouts (RT 12:53; New Featurette)
    • Birth (RT 4:00; New Featurette)
  • Easter Egg (RT 2:00)
  • Digital Copy

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Milk (Momentum): Sean Penn is often regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation and his portrayal of Harvey Milk in this biopic was one of his very best. Milk was a gay rights activist who in the 1970s became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The film opens with opens with archive footage of police raiding gay bars during the 1950s and 1960s, followed by the announcement in November, 1978 that Milk and Mayor George Moscone have been assassinated.

What follows is an inspiring and moving tale of political courage and hope with many fine performances across the board from Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Josh Brolin.

Directed by Gus Van Sant from a script by Dustin Lance Black, it skilfully juxtaposed the drama of Milk’s political battles against the inner conflicts of his private life. It was also a nice change to see Penn play a warm and inspirational protagonist, a dimension to the film which gave it an extra lift.

Watching the film unfold just a couple of weeks after the election of Barack Obama it was hard not to see the parallels: both were political outsiders who thrived on changing the status quo through a combination of hope and grass roots activism.

Sadly, Milk’s legacy was not enough to prevent the passing of Prop 8 Рa California ballot proposition that changed the laws of the state to ban same sex marriage. But this film will almost certainly become a lasting testament to his political and moral courage.

The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include:

  • Deleted Scenes (3m 44s)
  • Remembering Harvey (13m 21s)
  • Hollywood Comes to San Francisco (14m 32s)
  • Marching for Equality (7m 58s)
  • UK & International Trailers

On DVD the film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with English DD5.1 Surround audio and optional English subtitles.

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ALSO OUT

Dasepo Naughty Girls (Third Window Films)
Elephant Diaries – Series 2 (2 Entertain)
Green Green Grass – Series 3 (2 Entertain)
Kick the Moon (Third Window Films)
Marriage Italian Style (Mr. Bongo Films)
My Bloody Valentine 3D (Lionsgate)
Odette (Optimum)
Rescue Me – Season 3 (Sony)
Stargate Atlantis – Season 5 Volume 3 (Fox)
The Incredible Human Journey (2 Entertain)
The Shield – Season 7 (Sony)
Top Gear: The Challenges 3 (2 Entertain)
Valkyrie (Fox)
Whale Wars – Series 1 (Demand DVD)

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Take a look at the current UK cinema releases (W/C Friday 5th June)

Categories
Interesting Technology

Ed Ulbrich on the special effects in Benjamin Button

A fascinating TED video in which Ed Ulbrich of Digital Domain explains how the remarkable visual effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were achieved.

Categories
Awards Season Behind The Scenes

Benjamin Button Visual Effects

Digital Domain show how the visual effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were done.

Categories
Cinema

UK Cinema Releases: Friday 6th February 2009

UK Cinema Releases 06-02-09

NATIONAL RELEASES

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Warner Bros): This high profile big budget adaptation an¬†F. Scott Fitzgerald short story stars¬†Brad Pitt as the title character, a man who is born as an old man and ages backwards throughout his life. Directed¬†by¬†David Fincher, from a script written by¬†Eric Roth and¬†Robin Swicord, it also stars¬†Cate Blanchett,¬†Taraji P. Henson,¬†Julia Ormond,¬†Tilda Swinton and¬†Jason Flemyng. Told in flashback, it is an epic tale of one man’s life during the 20th century, from in 1918 to 2005.

On first viewing I admired it more as a technical exercise and was puzzled as to why a director like Fincher was attracted to this material. Why did they alter the original story so much? What were the contemporary references all about? And wasn’t it a bit too similar to Forrest Gump? (also scripted by Roth). However, on second viewing I found it to be a much richer experience – it is essentially a fable about love and loss and gains its power from the central concept of living life backwards.

Far from being a gimmick, it actually becomes a profound way of dramatising the ageing process. Forget the Oscar fuelled hype and snarky critical hate surrounding this film and approach it with an open mind. The makeup, visual effects, cinematography, score and performances make it an unusual and affecting big budget rarity.

Because studios don’t like making expensive dramas like this, Paramount have split costs with Warner Bros, with the latter being the UK distributor. The Oscar nominations and star power of Pitt and Blanchett should give it a top 2 finish at least, even though the length (166 mins) will curb its earnings.¬†[Cert¬†12A¬†/ Nationwide]

Doubt (Walt Disney): In 2005, John Patrick Shanley wrote the hit play Doubt: A Parable, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. Now Shanley has directed a film version called Doubt which stars Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius, the stern principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx during the 1960s, who comes into conflict with a reforming priest named Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

A strong supporting cast includes Amy Adams and Viola Davis and although at times it is a little too stagey, the strength of the original play shines through and gives the impressive cast a chance to flex their considerable acting muscles. Although some audiences will be left frustrated by the climax, it is worth remembering that it contains the very crux of the play and is also what gives it a rich and lasting power. Disney and Miramax will be hoping that upscale audiences will check this out, but it faces tough competition from Benjamin Button and other awards season fare. [Cert 15 / Nationwide]

Bolt (Walt Disney): The first film from the rejuvenated¬†Walt Disney Animation Studios headed by Pixar supremo¬†John Lasseter tells the story of a dog named Bolt (voiced by¬†John Travolta) who doesn’t realise that the TV show he stars in isn’t actually real. Also featuring the voices of¬†Miley Cyrus,¬†Malcolm McDowell,¬†Susie Essman and¬†Mark Walton, it was directed by¬†Chris Williams and¬†Byron Howard.

The effect of Lasseter overseeing this film has had a marked on effect on the animation and writing, which contains similar levels of wit and emotion apparent in the best Pixar movies. Added to this, is the impressive Dolby 3-D which is less gimicky than recent films like Beowulf, instead featuring a more organic visual approach. Disney can be hopeful that family audiences will power this to the top slot despite it being a very busy weekend at the UK box office. [Cert PG / Vue West End & Nationwide]

* Listen to our interview with John Lasseter about Bolt *

He’s Just Not That Into You (Entertainment): A romantic comedy squarely aimed at female audiences based on the self-help book of the same name by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, which, in turn, was based on a line of dialogue in Sex and the City. The ensemble cast is impressive: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly and Bradley Cooper.

The plot revolves around the romantic misadventures of several individuals in their twenties and thirties and the common thread is that one person in each relationship is more enamored with the other person. Directed by Ken Kwapis it looks likely to ensnare gullible females but the lack of marketing buzz and mixed reviews would appear to be ominous signs for its box office potential. The recent remix of the trailer with the Christian Bale meltdown might actually be funnier than the film. [Cert 12A/ Nationwide]

Punisher War Zone (Sony Pictures): A fairly unnecessary reboot for the Marvel Comics vigilante The Punisher. British actor Ray Stevenson replaces Thomas Jane as Frank Castle and in this story wages a one-man war against a horribly disfigured mob boss known as Jigsaw (no, not the Saw villain) played by Dominic West. Lionsgate tried to ressurect this a superviolent anti-superhero franchise but it failed at the US box office and Sony (who have UK distribution) will have to look to ancillary markets to find any profit. [Cert 18 / Nationwide]

The Secret Of Moonacre (Warner Bros.):¬†An¬†adaptation¬†of the¬†novel¬†The Little White Horse by¬†Elizabeth Goudge, which is set in the 1840’s and follows Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards), a 13 year old orphan on her journey to the mysterious Moonacre Manor in the West Country. There she discovers that she is the last Moon Princess and she has only until the next full moon to undo the misdeeds of her ancestors and save the Moonacre estate. Although some talented actors such as Tim Curry, Ioan Gruffudd, and¬†Natascha McElhone feature in the supporting cast, this faces a struggle to capture family audiences with Disney’s Bolt looking to be dominant film for that market this week. [Cert U / Nationwide]

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Optimum Releasing): After making the worst film of his career, Woody Allen returns with his best in years, a witty and sparkling tale of  two American women, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) who spend a summer in Barcelona and both fall for a local artist (Javier Bardem) who has an angry ex-wife (Penélope Cruz). Not only is it smarter than his recent outings but it contains some truly marvellous performances, especially from Bardem and Cruz. [Cert 12A/ West End venues / Regions from 13th Feb]

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IN SELECTED RELEASE

The Good, The Bad and The Weird (Icon): The story of three Korean outlaws in 1930s Manchuria and their dealings with the Japanese army and Chinese and Russian bandits. Directed by Kim Ji-woon, it stars Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, and Jung Woo-sung. [Cert 15 / Cineworld Shaftesbury Ave & Key Cities]

Who Killed Nancy? (Soda Pictures): A limited release for a documentary exploring the death of¬†Nancy Spungen, an ex-prostitute, sometimes stripper, heroin addict, and girlfriend of Sex Pistols’ bassist Sid Vicious.¬†Directed by Alan G Parker.¬†[London venues & Key Cities]

> UK Cinema Releases for February 2009
> Get the latest showtimes for your local cinema via Google Movies
> Check out our latest DVD picks (W/C Monday 2nd February)

Categories
Cinema

UK Cinema Releases: February 2009

UK Cinema Releases - February 2009

FRIDAY 6th FEBRUARY 2009

  • Bolt (3D) (PG) Walt Disney /¬†Vue West End & Nationwide
  • The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (12A) Warner Bros. / Nationwide
  • Doubt (15) / Walt Disney
  • The Good, The Bad and The Weird (15) Icon /¬†Cineworld Shaftesbury Ave., & Key Cities
  • He‚Äôs Just Not That Into You (TBC) Entertainment /¬†Nationwide
  • Punisher War Zone (18) / Sony Pictures
  • The Secret Of Moonacre (U) / Warner Bros.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (12A) Optimum Releasing /¬†West End venues (Regions from 13 Feb)
  • Who Killed Nancy? (TBC) Soda Pictures / London venues & Key Cities

FRIDAY 13th FEBRUARY 2009

  • Friday The 13th (18)¬†/¬†Paramount
  • Fuck (TBC) ICA Films / ICA Cinema (Key Cities from March)
  • Hotel For Dogs (U) / Paramount
  • Moscow, Belgium (15) Unanimous Pictures / London venues (tbc) & Key Cities
  • Notorious (15)¬†20th Century Fox
  • Pink Panther 2 (PG) /¬†Sony Pictures
  • Three Monkeys (15) / New Wave Films

FRIDAY 20th FEBRUARY 2009

  • 20th Century Boys (15)¬†4Digital Asia / ICA Cinema & Key Cities
  • Anvil! The Story Of Anvil (12A) The Works / Curzon Soho & Key Cities
  • Cadillac Records (TBC) /¬†Sony Pictures
  • Che: Part Two (15) / Optimum Releasing
  • Confessions Of A Shopaholic (TBC) /¬†Walt Disney
  • Franklyn (15) Contender Films / E1 Films
  • Gran Torino (15) / Warner Bros.
  • Push (12A) / Icon

FRIDAY 27th FEBRUARY 2009

  • Brothers (TBC) / Lionsgate UK
  • The Class (15) /¬†Artificial Eye
  • Dance Flick (TBC) / Paramount
  • Fermat‚Äôs Room (TBC) /¬†Revolver Entertainment
  • Gun Crazy (PG) (R/I) bfi Distribution / BFI Southbank & Key Cities
  • Hamlet 2 (15) /¬†Momentum Pictures
  • The International (15) / Sony Pictures
  • New In Town (12A) / Entertainment
  • The Unborn (15) Universal

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Keep a look out every Friday for a breakdown of the weekly releases with more detail on each film.

If you have any questions about this month’s cinema releases or any upcoming titles then just email me or leave a comment below.

> Get local showtimes via Google Movies (just enter your local postcode)
> Find out about films showing near you at MyFilms

Categories
Amusing

The Curious Case of Forrest Gump

The Curious Case of Forrest Gump Рwatch more funny videos at Funny Or Die
Categories
Awards Season Cinema Interesting

David Fincher and Brad Pitt on Charlie Rose

The director and star of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button talk to Charlie Rose for an hour about the film.

The film opens here on Friday 6th February.

> Official site for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
> David Fincher and Brad Pitt at the IMDb